Traditional genes account for only about 2% of all human genetic material. Until recently, it was believed that the remaining genetic material acted as a scaffold. However, it has now become clear that DNA outside of traditional genes encodes small non-coding messengers known as microRNAs. Because microRNAs can regulate multiple genes simultaneously, changes in their expression can have farreaching biologic effects. We hypothesize that changes in microRNAs play an important early role in ovarian cancer. For our inter-institutional Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Program Project Development Grant, we have assembled an outstanding multidisciplinary group of oncologists, geneticists, and bioinformaticians to study microRNAs in ovarian cancer. Our scientific objectives have been to use state of-the-art DNA sequencing technology to identify the microRNAs that are upregulated and downregulated in ovarian cancer and to determine the consequences of these changes. With the support of the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund in 2009, we published a high profile paper in Endocrine Reviews entitled “The mammalian ovary from genesis to revelation”, we have our first paper describing our clear cell ovarian cancer work entitled “A link between mir-100 and FRAP1/mTOR in clear cell ovarian cancer”, (in press in Molecular Endocrinology), we submitted our first paper describing our work in serous ovarian cancer entitled “Molecular profiling uncovers microRNA-31 as a tumor suppressor in serous ovarian cancer”, and we have additional papers under review or in preparation.
These studies are leading us in new directions to develop novel therapies for treating ovarian cancers focused on the delivery of microRNAs both alone and in combination with known chemotherapeutic drugs.
Martin M. Matzuk, M.D., Ph.D., Principal Investigator, is the Stuart A. Wallace Chair and Professor of Pathology & Immunology and Associate Director of the Center for Reproductive Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Matzuk earned his B.A. with Honors from the University of Chicago, his M.D. and Ph.D. from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, performed residency training in pathology at the University of Pennsylvania, is a board-certified Clinical Pathologist, and is Director of Clinical Chemistry at Ben Taub General Hospital. Dr. Matzuk has co-authored more than 280 articles, many of which are in top tier biomedical journals. He is Treasurer of the Society for the Study of Reproduction (SSR), has been an active reviewer for NIH and other governmental agencies, and served as Chair on the NIH CMIR study section. He has spoken at over 140 national and international symposia. He was the inaugural Ernst Knobil Lecturer at University of Pittsburgh, the inaugural Billie Fields Lecturer at the University of Illinois, and the Bruce Stewart Memorial Award Lecturer for the ASRM. His honors also include the Richard E. Weitzman Memorial Award from the Endocrine Society, the HypoCCS Award from Eli Lilly, the SSR Research Award, the Pfizer Outstanding Investigator Award from the American Society for Investigative Pathology, the Founders Award Lecturer for the Society for Reproductive Biology, the Royal College Lectureship from the Canadian Society of Endocrinology and Metabolism, the Roy O. Greep Award from The Endocrine Society, and a prestigious MERIT award from the NIH. Dr. Matzuk’s research focuses on deciphering the critical genes, proteins, and small RNAs that are involved in reproductive function and dysfunction including ovarian cancer. In the current OCRF Program Project Development grant, Dr. Matzuk has teamed up with investigators at Georgia Institute of Technology, The Methodist Hospital, and Baylor College of Medicine to identify early serum biomarkers and metabolic changes in women with ovarian cancer.